York Square Cinema gets continual bad hand and help from film companies

Mike Schoeck

York Square Cinema is one of the Yale Coop’s oldest establishments, located on Broadway just off Dixwell Avenue.
Think of downtown New Haven and its few long-standing venues. Aside from Toad’s Place, The Shubert Theater, Cutler’s Records and Long Wharf, there is not a whole lot left.
Just shy of turning 60, York Square served as an intimate New Haven experience for students and Southern Connecticut patrons alike, within walking distance of restaurants, bookshops, art galleries and everything a fine smaller city can offer in its tight- knit downtown area.
Now surrounded by corporate franchise shops and cafes, the usual $4 per ticket cinema has severed ties with virtually all major film companies due to its withering building in need of renovation.
Tougher accessibility than your suburban mega-plex stadium style theater, at close to $10 a ticket also forces one to stay near home or rent a movie.
Within the past few years and since the early 1980’s, York Square has filed suits against major film companies like Buena Vista, Paramount, MGM and almost any other name that is nicely tucked beneath one major media logo.
The Fox film company is the only loyal entity that has stuck by the theater, aside from a wide-reaching number of independent market titles.
In addition, the theater has maintained its prominence in the community, hosting each year’s Film Fest New Haven, a shortened but just as eclectic gathering and screening of today’s independent film-makers in short films, documentaries and feature films.
Certainly there is a distinction in preference and taste in movie-goers. For more of the organic and DIY brand of film, York Square is a fine venue.
Even if the screen projection is a little rough and unrefined, a quaint 100-chair theater seems more appealing than the mega-cineplex, with everyone and their sibling’s cell-phones going off, the love bugs behind you banging your chair and your feet squishing on the floor from popcorn, butter and soda.
Recently in the major and indie markets the cinema has shown “Amelie,” “One Hour Photo,” “Banger Sisters,” and “8 Women.”
In the past, Fox has given the theater priority over area Showcase Cinemas, with titles like “Cast Away” and “Fight Club.”
In a press conference held at York Square, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., calls the theater’s lawsuits against the Hollywood industry “red-lining downtown New Haven [and promoting] limited access to entertainment for city residents.”
Sure, the theater could use a renovating face lift and reclining chairs with cup holders, but don’t say you forgot the day you and your friends piled into the front row with sour candies and blue tongues from slushees.
There was that occasional crackling from the projection after the first few times you saw “The Goonies” or “Never Ending Story,” but total captivity for sure. The theater is similar in dynamics and atmosphere to many older, lower Manhattan theaters in Union Square and the Tribeca/Soho areas around New York University.
York Square usually has four films running during a given day and is how cinema is meant to be experienced.
Some prefer an occasional indie flick as well as the mainstream blockbuster that has been off the shelf of Showcase or Hoyts for a few weeks.
Although Yale has expressed a neutral regard to the outcome of the York Square situation with the major film companies, there is still a steady turnout for a late night outing over a weekend, after a show or clubbing route.
With light traffic it is under 15 minutes from campus, staying on Dixwell Ave. south onto Broadway and the Yale Coop, and just as long if taking I-91 South to downtown New Haven, up past the Green onto Broadway with York Street and Toad’s Place to the right.
Show times often change, so read the New Haven Advocate for current listings.